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NIA seeks details from persons examined over farmers’ protests

A view of National Investigation Agency (NIA), in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has sought details of the social media accounts, Aadhaar numbers and bank account details of persons who were recently examined by the agency in connection with the ongoing farmers’ agitation.

The NIA has so far examined 16 persons in connection with a case registered in December 2020 against Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a foreign-based group banned by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in 2019 for advocating secessionist and pro-Khalistani activities in India.

While the government has denied that the questioning was related to the ongoing farmers’ agitation, all those who received NIA notices were either associated or had participated in the ongoing protests.

Ranjit Singh, 30, of Damdami Taksal, Amritsar said he was examined by NIA for nine hours on January 21.

“The NIA officer asked why I was participating in the farmers’ protest if if did not own or cultivate any land. He took down the details of my social media accounts and bank account. They were cordial to me for eight hours, but in the end said that I have been brainwashed by Khalistani leaders and was too young to be involved in all this,” he said.

Mr. Singh said he was a promoter of the Sikh religion and runs a magazine that receives donations from friends in a foreign country. “The bank details show that I have not received more than ₹4 lakh from any foreign account in the past eight years. The NIA officers wanted to know if there was a bigger amount that I had received. I told them of the ₹1.5 lakh I received, we purchased gloves and books for ₹1.30 lakh that we distributed at the Singhu and Tikri border [sites of farmer protests]. ₹12,000 was spent on petrol for my two vehicles and the remaining ₹8,000 is with me. I showed them the bills,” he said.

The NIA had on January 15 summoned around 40 persons to be examined by the agency as “witness”. Only 16 appeared for examination in the end of January. No further questioning has been done, said an NIA official.

Palwinder Singh, 26, who runs a common service centre in the Tarn Taran district of Punjab, said that the NIA officials asked him to share the link of his social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

“They wanted to know the details of my family — my bua, chachi, mausi (maternal and paternal aunts) and where they lived. We also do social work and I was asked about the ₹70,000 I received from a friend in January that was spent to repair the collapsed roof of a poor person’s house. I gave them an account of the money spent on material and mason. I also shared the YouTube link of the video we made after the roof was repaired,” Mr. Palwinder Singh said, adding that he had been at the Singhu border till Tuesday.

Pardeep Singh, a dairy farm owner from Ludhiana said he was surprised to find that that an agency as busy as the NIA called him for questioning to know about foreign funding that he had not received. “I received money from a friend abroad last year to help 400-500 families stuck during the lockdown. We have a group but we do not receive foreign funds. NIA asked me about Sikhs for Justice. I told them that I know them through social media but not personally,” said Mr. Pardeep Singh, who was examined for six hours. He added that he was a regular at the protest site at the Singhu-Delhi border and had returned only few days ago to Ludhiana.

Tajinder Singh, a journalist from the Akaal TV channel said he had gone to the NIA’s office on January 21. “The officer who was to examine me was not there. They said I would be called later, if need arose,” the TV journalist said.

The NIA registered a fresh case against SFJ on December 15, 2020, in which it alleged that large amounts of funds being collected by Khalistani terrorist outfits were being sent through non governmental organisations (NGOs) to pro-Khalistani elements based in India.

The FIR said that designated terrorists such as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Paramjeet Singh Pamma, Hardeep Singh Nijjar and others spearheaded campaigns to collect huge funds for an on-ground campaign and propaganda against the Government of India, which included staging demonstrations against Indian missions in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Germany.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 8:10:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/nia-seeks-details-from-persons-examined-over-farmers-protest/article33926005.ece

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